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Developmental Psychology

1991, Vol.27, No. 1,172-180


Copyright 1991 by the American Psychological Associaiion, Inc.
0O12-1649/91/S3.O0
Family, School, and Behavioral Antecedents to Early
Adolescent Involvement With Antisocial Peers
T. J. Dishion, G. R. Patterson, M. Stoolmiller, and M. L. Skinner
Oregon Social Learning Center
Eugene, Oregon
This study focuses on the prediction of early adolescent involvement with antisocial peers from
boys' experiences in school, family, and behavior at age 10. Two hundred and six boys and their
families were assessed at school, interviewed, observed in the home, and then followed up at age 12.
Poor parental discipline and monitoring practices, peer rejection, and academic failure at age 10
were prognostic of involvement with antisocial peers at age 12. We also found considerable continu-
ity between the boys' antisocial behavior and contact with antisocial peers at age 10 and subsequent
contact at age 12. After we controlled for such continuity, only academic failure and peer rejection
remained as significant predictors. These data indicate a need to study the ecological context of
deviant peer networks in middle childhood.
The past decade of large-scale survey studies showed an im-
pressive link between involvement with antisocial peers and
various adjustment problems endemic to adolescent popula-
tions, such as substance use (Dishion, Reid, & Patterson, 1988;
Elliott, Huizinga, & Ageton, 1985; Huba& Bentler, 1982,1983;
Kandel, 1973), delinquency (Elliott et al, 1985; Patterson &
Dishion, 1985), and school dropout. Having delinquent friends
in adolescence has also been found to be associated with main-
tenance of delinquent behavior into adulthood (West &
Farrington, 1977). What are poorly understood, however, are
earlier childhood social experiences that contribute to chil-
dren's gradually selecting deviant peer relationships by the time
they reach adolescence. The present research considers the sepa-
rate and multivariate influence of parenting practices, the
child's antisocial behavior, academic skills, and peer relations
measured at age 10, and children's risk for later exposure to
antisocial peers at age 12.
The inclusion of the family as a risk factor for exposure to
antisocial peers is supported by a body of delinquency and
This research was supported in part by research awards to G. R.
Patterson from the National Institute of Mental Health, Section on
Studies in Antisocial and Violent Behavior, from the National Institute
of Alcohol Abuse (Grant MH 37940), and from the National Institute
of Child and Human Development (Grant HD 22679), as well as by a
grant awarded to T. J. Dishion by the National Institute of Drug Abuse
(Grant DA 05304).
This research was possible because of the carefully collected data
provided by the skilled Oregon Youth Study staff supervised by Debo-
rah Capaldi. Katie Douglas and Carol Kimball are especially appre-
ciated for the careful preparation of tables and the editing of drafts of
the manuscript. We thank David Andrews for his critique of an earlier
version of this article. In addition, we acknowledge Robert Lady,
Charles Stevens, and Robert Hammond for their continued collabora-
tion in providing access to schools for data collection.
Correspondence concerning this article should be addressed to T. J.
Dishion, Oregon Social Learning Center, 207 East 5th Avenue, Suite
202, Eugene, Oregon 97401.
aggression research showing a strong predictive relationship
between child-rearing environments in middle childhood and
delinquent behavior in adolescence (Loeber & Dishion, 1983).
A social interactional model has been developed by Patterson
and colleagues (e.g., Patterson, 1982; Patterson, Reid, & Di-
shion, in press) that provides an explanation for this predictive
relation as well as a network of hypotheses regarding correlated
social sequelae of disrupted families. In this model, the first
stage of a developmental process underlying child antisocial
behavior begins with maladaptive parent-child interaction pat-
terns that provide payoffs to children for coercive and antiso-
cial behavior. The more extreme these parent-child exchange
patterns, the more likely the child's antisocial disposition spills
over to other settings such as the school. In school settings,
children's antisocial behavior interferes with the learning pro-
cess by virtue of reduced time on-task in learning assignments
and of being disliked by peers. Failure in school and in the
conventional peer group is considered (Patterson et al., in press)
the second stage in the developmental process. The third stage
is that the failing, disliked, and antisocial child quite naturally
selects social settings that maximize social reinforcement. It is
suspected that these deviant social contacts may be increased in
schools that track children with low academic skills by putting
them into the same classroom environments. By virtue of sys-
temic influences and the child's available peer network, peer-
group settings are established that may actually encourage the
child's antisocial behavior or model and shape new forms of
problem behavior.
Many of the links between the child's antisocial behavior and
failure in school and with peers have been well established. For
example, high levels of such behavior have been shown to
disrupt peer relations, leading to pervasive and persistent peer
rejection (Coie & Kupersmidt, 1983; Dodge, 1983). Dishion
(1990) examined a model that showed both academic failure
and antisocial behavior to account for variance in peer rejec-
tion in 10-year-old boys. In this model, the effect of parent
discipline practices on peer rejection was found to be mediated
by boys" academic performance and antisocial behavior.
172
INVOLVEMENT WITH ANTISOCIAL PEERS 173
Being rejected by the conventional peer group seems to be
related to a concomitant process of selective affiliation with
other children who are rejected. Putallaz and Gottman (1979)
noted that there was a strong tendency for the popular and
unpopular elementary school children in their study to asso-
ciate in separate groups, although unpopular children tended
to nominate popular children as friends. Ladd (1983) examined
the social interaction patterns of popular, average, and rejected
children in school and found that rejected children played with
other rejected children but were unlikely to receive friendship
nominations from their playmates. On the other hand, Cairns,
Cairns, Neckerman, Gest and Gariepy (1988) found that ag-
gressive children, although often rated as disliked, were per-
ceived by their peers and themselves as members of the main
classroom social clusters. This study also revealed a high intra-
class correlation coefficient between reciprocated best friends
on ratings of aggression.
At this stage of research, it is unclear whether similarity in
aggressive behavior between friends underlies their mutual at-
traction (e.g., Kandel, 1986) or is an outcome of peer socializa-
tion. There has been research focusing on the latter concern
that children's deviancy status actually increases as a function
of friendship associations. Research by Cillessen (1989) indi-
cated that the detrimental effect of associating with other re-
jected children may emerge as early as first grade. In this study,
rates of antisocial behavior for children were much higher when
they played in small groups (i.e., triads) including only other
rejected children. However, when rejected children were placed
in small groups including children with positive sociometric
status, their rates of problem behavior were within normal lev-
els. Along these lines, Coie, Dodge, and Christopoulus (1989)
also found that 50% of the aggression observed in their play
groups occurred in 20% of the peer dyads. Moreover, the chil-
dren in the 20% aggressive dyads were not particularly aggres-
sive when interacting in other dyadic arrangements.
Exposure to peer antisocial behavior has been shown to take
a sharp increase in middle adolescence. These observed in-
creases in exposure to antisocial peers in adolescence is asso-
ciated with relatively rapid increases in problem behavior (El-
liott & Menard, 1988). One factor that may account for this
increase is the child's unsupervised contact with peers. For ex-
ample, Patterson and Stouthamer-Loeber (1984) revealed that
parents' reports of the child being unsupervised are much
higher for boys in the 10th grade than for those in the 4th and
7th grades.
In addition, a study by Steinberg (1986) showed that being
with peers in places that lacked adult supervision or structure
made children more susceptible to pressure from peers to en-
gage in problem behavior. Snyder, Dishion, and Patterson
(1986) used a cross-sectional sample to examine the joint influ-
ence of social skills deficits and parental monitoring on the
child's association with antisocial peers in the 4th, 7th, and I Oth
grades. These analyses revealed parental monitoring to be espe-
cially important in the 7th and I Oth grades, accounting for
unique variance in deviant peers along with a measure of the
boy's social skills deficits. In this cross-sectional study, social
skills deficits were thought to represent the effect of peer rejec-
tion, which was not measured.
The present study extends this research in two ways. First,
the Snyder et al. (19 86) study was cross-sectional (planning sam-
ple) and therefore did not address the hypothesis that parental
monitoring and peer relations are prognostic of early adoles-
cent involvement with antisocial peers. In the Oregon Youth
Study (OYS) longitudinal analyses that follow, the parenting
practices, academic skills, antisocial behavior, and peer rela-
tions constructs were assessed at age 10 and examined in rela-
tion to involvement with antisocial peers at age 12.
Two sets of hypotheses were tested. First, construct scores
representing the boys' experiences in the family and school and
their behavioral adjustment at age 10 were correlated with con-
tact with antisocial peers at age 12, Second, the stage model
discussed by Patterson et al. (in press) was examined using a
multiple regression approach. In this analysis, explanatory vari-
ables focusing on the influence of parenting, peer relations, and
academic skills were first entered into the multiple regression
predicting age 12 associations with antisocial peers. The boys'
earlier antisocial behavior and involvement with antisocial
peers was then added. This approach to entering variables into
a multiple regression was used to address the multivariate hy-
potheses that (a) both parent and school experiences impact
children's involvement with antisocial peers and (b) school fail-
ure and peer rejection uniquely account for individual differ-
ences in subsequent involvement with deviant peers.
We adopted a multimethod definition for each of the con-
struct scores used in this research. The method used for devel-
oping these construct scores, as well as the subject acquisition
and assessment procedures, are described below
Methods
Sample
The sample comprised two cohorts of 102 and 104 boys and their
families recruited in the 1983-84 and 1984-85 school years in the
initial assessment wave of the OYS (Capaldi & Patterson, 1988; Patter-
son et al., in press). Only boys were recruited because the study in
which our data were obtained was investigating the family precursors
to adolescent delinquency and because the incidence of such behavior
is much higher in boys than in girls (Elliott el al., 1985). The study was
being conducted in a community with a population of 150,000 to
200,000; three major school districts participated in this research proj-
ect. When the data in the following analyses were collected, the boys
were 9 to 10 years old and in fourth grade during the first year.
Boys and their families were recruited through the school system.
Ten elementary schools with the highest density of neighborhood de-
linquency (i.e., juvenile arrest records in the school district) were se-
lected from the 43 public elementary schools in the study community.
For each cohort, the sampling order was randomly selected among 10
schools. Families were considered ineligible for thestudy for the follow-
ing reasons: (a) The family planned to move from the area before the
first assessment wave; (b) the family did not speak English; or (c) the
family had moved from the area before the research team had a chance
to solicit their participation. Thirteen and seven percent of the poten-
tial study participants in Cohorts 1 and 2, respectively, were ineligible
for one or more of these reasons.
Of all families eligible for the study, 74.4% agreed to participate.
Capaldi and Patterson (1988) compared the participant boys with the
nonparticipants (rated anonymously) and found that there were no reli-
able differences between the boys on the primary clinical scales of the
teacher version of the Child Behavior Checklist (Edelbrock & Achen-
bach, 1984). When compared with national norms (Patterson et al., in
174 DISHION, PATTERSON, STOOLMriXER, AND SKINNER
Table 1
Demographic Characteristics of Study Cohorts
Characteristic
Family socioeconomic status
8
Lower (Categories 1 & 2)
Working (Category 3)
Middle (Categories 4 & 5)
Employment status
Unemployed
Family income
$0-4,999
$5,000-9.999
$10,000-14,999
$15,000-19,999
$20,000-24,999
$25,000-29,999
$30,000-39,999
$40,000+
Family structure
Single parent
Number of children
1-2 children
3-4 children
5 or more children
Mean age of mother
Mean age of father
Cohort 1
50%
26%
23%
34%
11%
22%
15%
14%
16%
8%
13%
3%
31%
52%
37%
12%
34
36
Cohort 2
45%
29%
26%
30%
16%
20%
17%
14%
14%
10%
6%
3%
39%
58%
32%
11%
34
37
'See Hollingshead (1975).
press), families in both cohorts were of lower socioeconomic status,
with a somewhat higher percentage of unemployed parents than would
be expected in a representative sample. Both cohorts were predomi-
nantly White (99%). The demographic characteristics of the two co-
horts are provided in Table 1. Of the 206 families assessed when the
boys were 9-10 years old (Wave 1), 201 were reassessed at age 11-12
(Wave 3); the retention rate was 97%.
Assessment Phases
The boys and their families in the OYS were assessed in three phases
at age 10. The home phase consisted of three observations (1 hr each),
six telephone interviews conducted at approximately 3-day intervals,
and questionnaires completed by family members at the end of each
observation session. The school phase consisted of teacher ratings,
records of the results of standardized achievement tests administered
in the schools, and peer nominations, all when the boys were 10 years
old. The interview phase consisted of the boy and his family coming to
the research center for a structured interview, questionnaires, and a
videotaped family problem-solving task. At age 12, a similar assess-
ment was completed, but only measures serving as indicators of antiso-
cial peer involvement were included.
Construct Scores
In the present study, five constructs from the boys' assessments at
age 10 were included in the analysis: social preference and sociometric
status (peer relations), peer antisocial behavior, parental monitoring,
observed parenting, and child academic performance. At age 12, a
multiagent and multimethod construct measure of peer antisocial be-
havior was expanded by adding more items to teachers', parents', and
boys' reports.
The general strategy for developing measures of constructs can be
described as a process of elimination. First, an a priori list of items
from a particular instrument (e.g., interview, questionnaire, etc.) was
formulated into a scale and tested for internal consistency using Cron-
bach's alpha (Cronbach, 1951). Items with an item-to-total correlation
of less than .20 were eliminated from the scale. Scales from different
measures were then analyzed within a principle component analysis.
To confirm the hypothesis that the scales representing a construct
assessed one underlying dimension, a single-factor solution was used.
Scales with a standardized loading of less than .30 were culled as indi-
cators for a given construct. Construct indicators were generated in
this way by first using the data in Cohort 1 and subsequently replicat-
ing them in Cohort 2. The specific contents and reliabilities of the
indicators for each construct are described below. Retest stability was
assessed on a small randomly selected subsample of 20 families who
completed assessment measuresdeveloped at the Oregon Social Learn-
ing Center.
Sociometric status (age 10). The scoring approach described by
Coie, Dodge, and Coppotelli (1982) was used for the social impact and
social preference scores. The two nomination items used were "kids
who you like as friends" and "kids who you don't want to be friends
with." These two items were standardized by classroom. The social
preference score consisted of each boy's score on the "liked as friends"
item and his score on the "don't want to be friends with" item. The
social impact score represented the sum of nominations on both of
these items, reflecting how often each boy was nominated on both
positive and negative nomination items and, therefore, his salience
within the peer group. The following five sociometric groups were
formulated by using the scoring criteria described by Coie et ah: (a)
rejected (high social impact and negative social preference scores); (b)
controversial (high social impact and ambivalent social preference
scores); (c) neglected (low social impact and negative social preference
scores); (d) popular (high social impact and positive social preference
scores); and (e) average (all other boys). The average classification is
consistent with research by Coie and Dodge (1988) in which children
defined in previous research as having "undetermined" sociometric
status (Coie et a I., 1982) were combined with the average group. There
were 30 rejected boys, 14 controversial boys, 11 neglected boys, 27
popular boys, and 124 average boys (Cohorts I and 2).
Child antisocial behavior (age 10). The child antisocial behavior
score at age 10 and age 12 reflects the child's disposition to engage in
antisocial behavior across settings as rated by parents, teachers, and
the child himself. A central assumption underlying the measurement
of this construct is that cross-setting consistency reflects more severe
conduct problems than situational antisocial behavior (Loeber & Di-
shion, 1984). The parents' report consisted of 12 items from the Child
Behavior Checklist
1
(CBC; Achenbach & Edelbrock. 1983; e.g., arguesa
lot, disobedient at home, lies, steals, etc.), an expanded set (29 items) of
similar items from the Overt-Clandestine Antisocial Questionnaire
developed at the Oregon Social Learning Center, and 7 items from the
parents' telephone interview assessed over six daily interviews. The
teachers'
1
report consisted of 18 items from the teacher version of the
CBC (Achenbach & Edelbrock, 1986; e.g., argues a lot, disrupts class,
lies, steals, etc.). The children's report consisted of similar items taken
from their telephone interviews (13 items) and the structured interview
at the research center (9 items). Items that were dropped from the
scales generally included low-base-rate behaviors for 10-12-year-old
1
The CBC scales recommended for the parent and teacher versions
were not used in developing constructs for the OYS. Problems with the
standard CBC scales for this research are that (a) items representing
one behavior are often included in more than one scale and (b) items
like "hangs out with others who get into trouble" is represented on the
Delinquency Scale, introducing a confound in our efforts to examine
the relationship between deviant peer involvement and delinquent be-
havior.
INVOLVEMENT WITH ANTISOCIAL PEERS 175
boys, such as drug use or vandalism. Across the two cohorts (A
r
= 206),
the correlation between the teachers' and the parents' antisocial scores
was reasonably high (r = .39). The correlations between the children's
report and the parents' (r = .19) and teachers' (r = .14) reports were
lower. The children's reports of their antisocial behavior obviously re-
duced the overall convergent validity of this construct. However, given
a modest level of retest stability of the children's reports (r = .46, n =
20), this indicator was retained as an estimate of antisocial behavior
outside of the purview of caretaking adults.
Child academic achievement (age 10), The Wide Range Achieve-
ment Test (WR AT) Reading subtest, standard score, and standardized
tests of achievement used in the public schools were combined with
teacher CBC ratings of achievement to reflect a general score of aca-
demic skill. The WRAT Reading subtest, administered during the in-
terview session at OSLC, was used as one indicator of academic
achievement. The stanine scores of the standardized public school
achievement batteries, administered in the schools, were used as an-
other indicator of academic achievement. The correlation between the
teacher rating and the standardized achievement tests was very high
(r = .70, N= 206), and the correlation of the WRAT Reading scale to
these two indicators was also high (r = .51 and .55, respectively,
N =206).
Observed parent discipline (age 10). This score was an indirect mea-
sure of the parent's skill in discipline issues, in which high scores re-
flect the absence of negative discipline practices. Three indicators
from the home observation sessions were used for this construct: two
derived directly from the home observations and one from the ob-
server impressions. The observer impression score reflects impres-
sions that the parents were effective, fair, consistent, and even-handed
in their discipline practices. Item analyses were completed separately
for mothers and fathers. Six descriptors of the mother's even-handed
and consistent discipline survived the item analysis and yielded alpha
coefficients of .77 and .75 for Cohorts 1 and 2, respectively. Eleven
observer impressions of the fathers' even-handed and consistent disci-
pline survived the item analysis, yielding alpha coefficients of .82 and
.74 for Cohorts 1 and 2, respectively. The mother and father observer
impression scales were combined to form a parent scale for two-parent
families. The retest stability of this parent scale was found to be .68
0i - 20).
Two-parent discipline scores were derived from the behavioral ob-
servations in the families' homes using the Family Process Code (Di-
shion et al., 1983). The parent nattering score measures the parent's
noncontingent aversiveness with the child, represented by the likeli-
hood that the parent was coded as negative while interacting with the
child regardless of the child's behavior. Eight content codes were de-
fined on a rational basis to describe this disciplinary tactic (negative
verbal, coerce ambiguous, refuse, negative nonverbal, noncomply, com-
mand with negative valence, command ambiguous with negative valence,
and physical interact with negative valence). The retest stability of the
Parent Nattering indicator was found to be .36 over a 2- to 3-month
interval (n = 20).
The second parent-to-child interactional measure was the parent
punishment density score. This score reflects the density (i.e., relative
frequency) of parent-to-child negative exchanges in relation to positive
parent-child interactions. The rate per minute of all parent-to-child
positive content codes (positive verbal, endearment, request, request
ambiguous, agree, positive nonverbal, touch, hold, and comply) was sub-
tracted from the rate of negative codes (negative verbal, verbal attack,
coerce, coerce ambiguous, refuse, negative nonverbal, physical aggres-
sive, physical interact, physical attack, and noncomply). Parents scoring
high on the punishment density score were frequently and predomi-
nantly negative. In contrast, the Parent Nattering score does not vary
according to the parent's rate of interaction (i.e., 5/10 = 500/1000) or
adjust for the positive aspects of a parent's behavior. The retest stability
of the parent punishment density score was found to be .45 (n = 20,2- to
3-month retest interval).
The observer impression scale was negatively correlated with the
Parent Nattering and Parent Punishment Density scores (-.47 and
.38, respectively). The intercorrelation between parent nattering and
punishment density was moderately high (r = .49). The nattering and
punishment scores were reversed in scale to combine with the observer
impressions of the parent's positive discipline practices.
Parent monitoring (age 10). This score assessed the parent's supervi-
sion of the child in relation to establishing clear guidelines of conduct
and monitoring his daily activities. The construct score was based on
the following:
1. The parent's and the child's interviewer's global ratings on the
extent to which the child was well supervised by parents. One item was
included on each interviewer impression inventory, "How well is this
child monitored?" The retest stability of the composite of these two
items was .51 (n = 1 9, 2- to 3-month retest interval).
2. The child's report of house rules in the structured interview at the
research center. The six items on this scale reflected the child's percep-
tion of his parents' rules concerning telling parents when he will be
home, leaving a note about where he is going, checking in after school,
whether there is someone home after school, knowing how to reach
parents when they are out, and talking to parents about daily plans.
The internal consistency of this scale was low (.59 and .49 for Cohorts 1
and 2, respectively). Despite the low internal consistency, the retest
stability of the measure was satisfactory over a 2- to 3-month interval
C68, n= 20). Because ofthe reasonable stability of this variable, it was
retained as an indicator of parental monitoring.
3. In the parent telephone interview, the primary caretaker (usually
the mother) was asked about the number of hours the parent spent with
the son in the previous 24 hr. The parent's response to this question was
aggregated over six telephone calls. Retest stability is not available for
this indicator.
The intercorrelations among the three indicators for the monitoring
construct were moderate, with the interviewer impressions correlating
with the child's interview report on rules (r = .36, N= 206) and with the
parent's telephone report on monitoring (r = .23, N = 206). The inter-
correlation between the child's and the parent's report was low and
positive (r = .15, N= 206).
Family context (age 10). Parents were asked their occupation and
education in the interview. In addition, parents were asked the number
of children living at home at the time ofthe interview. The number of
children in the family was divided by the number of parents in the
home to provide a child-to-parent ratio as a third contextual descrip-
tion for the family.
Peer antisocial behavior (age 10). This construct at age 10 consisted
ofthe parents', the teachers', and the children's reports on peer antiso-
cial behavior. The child interview indicator included the following
items concerning how many of the child's friends had (a) cheated on
school tests, (b) ruined or damaged other people's things on purpose,
(c) stolen something worth less than five dollars, (d) hit or threatened to
hit someone without a reason, (e) broken into someplace like a car or
building to steal something, (f) stolen something worth more than $50,
or(g) made suggestions of illegal activity. The boys answered the above
items on a 5-point scale ranging from 1 (none of them) to 5 (all of them).
These items describing peer antisocial activities at Wave 1 and Wave 3
yielded alphas of .89 and .80, respectively.
The parent report consisted of an item from the Child Behavior
Checklist (Achenbach & Edelbrock, 1981), which asks how often the
child "hangs out with others who get into trouble," and of a similar item
from a parent report questionnaire developed by the research staff,
which asks how often the child "hangs out with children who steal."
The retest stability for this parent report questionnaire was found to be
quite stable over a 1- to 2-month interval (r = .72, n = 20, p < .001).
176 DISHION, PATTERSON, STOOLMILLER, AND SKINNER
The Child Behavior Checklist completed by teachers included an
item on how often the child "hangs out with children who get into
trouble," which served as the third indicator for this construct.
Peer antisocial behavior (age 12). A similar measurement strategy
was used to assess this construct at age 12, although more measures of
involvement with antisocial peers were available to buttress the mea-
surement of this construct- The expanded list of items of each boy's
report of antisocial peer activity was as follows. His friends (a) get into
many fights, (b) don't like schoolwork, (c) get into trouble a lot, (d) don't
get along with adults, or (e) are kids who get into trouble and who are
daring. An analysis of these items revealed satisfactory internal consis-
tency for both cohorts (alpha = .75, Cohort 1, and .84, Cohort 2).
Items added to the teacher report of "hangs around with others who
get into trouble" at age 12 included (a) How often does this student
associate with kids who misbehave at school? (b) Does the student
associate with kids who steal or vandalize? and (c) Does the student
associate with kids who get into fights? These four items from the
teacher ratings produced a scale that showed very high internal consis-
tency across the two cohorts (alpha = .90, Cohorts I and 2).
Three items comprised the parent report indicator of peer antisocial
behavior, including "hangs around with others who get into trouble"
(parent CBC), "Does he hang out with kids who steal?" and "Has he
been with a friend or group of friends who were setting fires?" The
mean intercorrelation among the scales of the peer antisocial behavior
construct at age 12 was .40 for Cohort 1 and .42 for Cohort 2.
The child report of contact correlated moderately with teacher re-
ports (/ = .34, N = 206) and parent reports (r = .30, N = 206). Teacher
reports of peer antisocial behavior correlated moderately with parent
reports (r=. 31, N = 206).
Analysis strategy: Hypotheses were tested using two strategies.
First, the bivariate correlations among individual construct scores
were analyzed separately by cohort to determine the zero-order rela-
tion between each construct and later involvement with antisocial
peers. Second, the cohorts were combined to increase the accuracy of
the contribution of each construct in a multivariale regression equa-
tion including age 10 predictors of age 12 involvement with antisocial
peers. Predictor variables were entered (i.e., forced-entry multiple re-
gression) in three sets. Initially, the age 10 explanatory variables (parent
discipline, monitoring, peer relations, and academic skills) were en-
tered to determine the relative contribution of family and school experi-
ences. Next, the child's antisocial behavior at age 10 was added to the
multiple regression to determine the extent that family and school
adjustment predicted later involvement with deviant peers in addition
to early problem behavior. The age 10 measure of association with
deviant peers was then added to the multiple regression to determine
which of the explanatory measures competed with the stability of the
child's involvement with antisocial peers from ages 10 to 12. We as-
sumed that the age 10 predictors that accounted for significant vari-
ance over and above the stability of contact with antisocial peers were
more likely to be sociaj experiences that increased the child's risk for a
deviant trajectory, consistent with the stage hypothesis described by
Patterson et al. (in press).
Results
Mean Level of Contact With Antisocial Peers
Three measures of the boys' involvement with antisocial
peers were collected at both ages 10 and 12 and showed mixed
trends in terms of mean levels across the two ages. Children's
reports (seven items consistent across assessments) of their
friends' antisocial behavior decreased from a mean level of 1.64
at age 10 to 1.52 at age 12, a trend that was statistically reliable,
as determined by a repeated-measures analysis of variance
Table 2
Correlations Between Child Behavior and School Adjustment at
Age 10 and Peer Antisocial Behavior at Age 12
Peer antisocial behavior at age 12
Age 10 construct scores Cohort 1 (N = 102) Cohort 2 (N = 104)
Social preference score
(peer relations) -.40*
Academic skills -.38**
Antisocial behavior .54**
-. 43**
-. 34**
.59**
*p<.01. **p<.00l.
(ANOVA; p < .01). Mothers
1
and fathers
1
ratings on a single item
from the CBC ("hangs out with others who get into trouble")
showed no change from ages 10 to 12. Teachers, however, re-
ported (on the item "hangs out with others who get into trou-
ble") more contact with antisocial peers from age 10 (M= .42) to
age 12 (M = .62). This trend was statistically reliable in a re-
peated-measures ANOVA (p < .001). Note that different
teachers completed the ratings at the two ages and that these
ratings reflect the boys
1
transition from elementary school to
middle school.
School Adjustment and Behavioral Antecedents
Pearson correlations were computed for Cohorts 1 and 2 sepa-
rately to evaluate the extent to which boys' antisocial behavior,
academic skills, and peer relations at age 10 were prognostic of
the construct score representing later exposure to antisocial
peers. These correlations are presented in Table 2. Inspection of
these correlations reveals excellent replication across the two
cohorts on the general strength of the relations between associa-
tion with antisocial peers and these early adjustment parame-
ters. As can be seen in the table, low academic skills, being less
liked by peers at school, and engaging in antisocial behavior at
age 10 were reliably correlated with association with antisocial
peers at age 12.
Peer relations have often been conceptualized as categorical;
children are seen as falling into one of several sociometric
groupings on the basis of their scores on social impact and
social preference dimensions. As described earlier, the boys in
the OYS were classified into the following groups according to
the protocol developed by Coie et al., (1982): rejected, neglected,
controversial, average, and popular. The peer antisocial behav-
ior construct score was examined in terms of means and stan-
dard deviations (for the z-scored constructs) for each sociomet-
ric group; these are presented in Table 3. The cohorts were
combined to increase the sample size underlying the estimate
of mean levels of peer antisocial behavior at age 12 for each
sociometric group.
As might be expected, boys denned as popular at age 10 had
low levels of contact with antisocial peers by age 12. Planned-
comparison / values indicate that these trends are statistically
reliable in differentiating the average from the popular boys.
As can be seen in Table 3. boys defined as rejected at age 10
had statistically higher levels of contact with antisocial peers 2
years later when compared with average, a statistically reliable
INVOLVEMENT WITH ANTISOCIAL PEERS 177
Table 3
Peer Antisocial Behavior at Age 12 by Peer Sociometric Status
at Age 10
Peer
sociometric
status
(age 10)
Rejected
Neglected
Controversial
Average
Popular
JV
32
12
8
122
28
M
0.49*
0.12
0.07
-0.07
-0.23*
SD
0.82
0.52
0.81
0.66
0.48
Minimum
-0.65
-0.62
-0.84
-0.94
-0.94
Maximum
2.80
0.97
1.25
1.86
0.88
* A planned-comparison 7"test contrasting sociometric subgroup with
average status was significant at p < .05.
trend as determined by planned comparisons (p < .05). Divid-
ing the group of rejected boys into those who were in the nor-
mal range (below the 80th percentile) on antisocial behavior
(rejected/normal, n = 14) and those who were high (above 80th
percentile) on this measure (rejected/antisocial, n = 18) at age 10
revealed no difference between these two subgroups. Both re-
jected/antisocial and rejected/normal boys were at equal risk
for later contact with antisocial peers (rejected/normal, M =
.58, SD = .90; rejected/antisocial, M = .43, SD = .78). Only the
rejected/normal boys were reliably more at risk than the aver-
age group for exposure to antisocial peer behavior at age 12.
Thus, the elevated risk for later peer antisocial behavior for the
rejected boys is not merely a function of their antisocial tenden-
cies.
Inspection of the minimum and maximum peer antisocial
behavior for each sociometric group clearly shows that although
the mean level of this construct score at age 12 seems to vary as
a function of earlier sociometric status, there is substantial vari-
ability within each group. The omnibus F test, however, shows
that the five sociometric groups are statistically different, F(4,
197) = 6.56, p<. 001.
Family Antecedents
The boys' families were examined with respect to specific
parenting practices and the general family context, namely, the
parents' occupation, their education, and the number of chil-
dren in the family. The bivariate correlations relating the boys'
family experiences at age 10 to later peer antisocial behavior are
shown in Table 4. It is worth noting that the construct scores of
the parents' monitoring and discipline practices equally and
significantly predict later involvement with deviant peers, and
these correlations replicate well across the two cohorts. Parent
occupation and education were also found to correlate with the
boys' later exposure to peer antisocial behavior across the two
cohorts, but at a lower level than did actual parenting practices,
with lower occupation levels and education levels associated
with greater risk for exposure to deviant peers. Similarly, the
number of children in the family was mildly associated with
later exposure to antisocial peers. This correlation was statisti-
cally reliable only in Cohort 1, not replicating in Cohort 2.
Multivariate Test
To test the unique contribution of each variable, the two
cohorts were combined into a sample of 206, and we computed
three sets of multiple regression analyses. A forced-entry strat-
egy was used to determine, first, the relative contribution of
family and school experiences at age 10 to later contact with
antisocial peers and, then, the extent that school or family expe-
riences accounted for unique variance in the boys' involvement
with antisocial peers. Parent occupation, parent education, and
family size were not included as predictors because of the rela-
tively low level ofcorrelation shown with later involvement with
antisocial peers. Therefore, the first analysis included the boys'
social preference score, their academic performance, and par-
enting practices in an attempt to account for variance in expo-
sure to peer antisocial behavior by age 12. This analysis was
labeled the ecological model (see Table 5) because measures of
the parenting, peer, and academic environment were used to
predict the boys' involvement in a deviant peer context. The
standard beta coefficients and their respective T values and
significance level are presented in Table 5. The standardized
beta coefficients for the ecological model are statistically reli-
able and account for 27% of the variance in the boys' exposure
to antisocial peers 2 years later. The overall omnibus test of this
multivariate linear equation is statistically significant, F(4,
197)= 19.19,/?<.001.
Next, the boys' antisocial behavior at age 10 was added to the
ecological constructs (family and school), as shown in Table 5.
The boys' earlier antisocial behavior was obviously an impor-
tant predictor of later involvement with antisocial peers (stan-
dardized beta = .38, p < .001). The inclusion of earlier problem
behavior reduced the association between parental discipline
skill and age 12 antisocial peers to statistically negligible. It is
interesting that even when we controlled for child antisocial
behavior, poor parent monitoring remained as a significant an-
tecedent to later deviant peer involvement. The inclusion of the
boys' antisocial behavior at age 10 increased the variance ac-
counted for in peer antisocial behavior at age 12 from 27%
to 37%.
The third equation added an estimate of the stability of the
boys' involvement with antisocial peers from ages 10 to 12 to the
multivariate equation. In this analysis, the association between
Table 4
Correlations Between Family Context at Age 10 and
Associations With Antisocial Peers at Age 12
Family constructs
(age 10)
Parenting practices
Parent discipline
Parent monitoring
Family context
Number of children
Parent occupation
Parent education
Peer antisocial behavior (age 12)
Cohort 1
(N= 102)
-.41***
-.37***
.22**
-.19*
-. 21 *
Cohort 2
(TV = 104)
-.24**
-.29**
.14
-.26**
-.23***
p< . 05 . **p<. 0l . ***/?< .001.
178 DISHION, PATTERSON, STOOLMILLER, AND SKINNER
Table 5
Multiple Regression of Age 10 Constructs on Peer Antisocial Behavior at Age 12
Age 10 constructs
Peer antisocial
Child antisocial
Social preference
Academic skill
Parent monitoring
Parent discipline
R
Adjusted R
2
Ftest
P
Ecological
(family and school)
constructs

-. 25***
-.19**
-.20**
-.16*
.54
.27
20.06
.001
Child antisocial +
ecological
constructs
.38***
-.14*
-. 15*
-. 13*
-.06
.62
.37
24.47
.001
Age 10 peer
antisocial + child
antisocial + ecological
constructs
.22**
.26***
-. 15*
-. 15*
-.10
-.03
.64
.40
23.08
.001
"/ <. 05. * / ? < . 0 1 . * * * / >< . 001.
parent discipline and monitoring practices and involvement
with antisocial peers at age 12 becomes nonsignificant when
compared with the stability of the boys' peer network and with
early problem behavior. Peer relations (i.e., social preference)
and academic skills, however, remained as statistically viable
predictors. This third multivariate equation accounted for 41 %
of the variance in peer antisocial behavior at age 12}
One issue in comparing the relative impact of a list of inde-
pendent variables on a dependent variable in a multiple regres-
sion analysis is the level of intercorrelation among the indepen-
dent variables (see Table 6). In general, all age 10 construct
scores were moderately intercorrelated. Parental discipline
skill and monitoring practices were negatively correlated with
peer antisocial behavior at an equal magnitude for ages 10 and
12; there was no difference in predictive validity over the two
years. As documented in previous research with these boys,
discipline skill and monitoring were negatively correlated with
the boys' antisocial behavior at age 10 (Patterson, 1986). The
correlation between age 10 peer antisocial behavior and the
child's own antisocial behavior was also extremely high (f= .59,
df= 204). This level of correlation seems to indicate that de-
viant peers are important to understanding children's antiso-
cial behavior prior to adolescence.
Discussion
Interest in the deviant peer group has been largely restricted
to middle adolescence and beyond. The present research pro-
vides some perspective on two issues related to contact with
such peers. First, these results suggest that the role of the peer
group may be important developmentally earlier than adoles-
cence. In fact, there is very little change in mean levels of peer
antisocial activity as reported by the child, parent, or teacher,
although only a limited amount of data were available in this
study at ages 10 and 12. Given the potential importance of the
peer group in middle childhood in establishing developmental
trajectories, research on children's social development may
benefit from improving strategies for measurement of antiso-
cial peer involvement in middle childhood. Two important re-
lated issues are the age in which stable friendship networks
emerge and the extent to which these networks can be differen-
tiated on the basis of problem behavior.
Second, the results of this study provide some beginning evi-
dence as to the ecological factors that might influence the
child's early selection of deviant peer contexts, implicating the
importance of both the boy's experiences in the family and the
school context. Parental monitoring and discipline practices in
middle childhood were found to be significantly correlated
with involvement with antisocial peers at ages 10 and 12. Con-
sistent with the stage model of Patterson et al. (in press) for the
development of chronic antisocial behavior, only academic fail-
ure and poor peer relations accounted for unique variance in
the peer antisocial behavior construct at age 12 when we con-
trolled for the stability of such associations and for earlier prob-
lem behavior.
One possible explanation for the relation between academic
failure and involvement with deviant peers is the tendency of
schools to group children of commensurate academic skills
into the same classroom. It is possible that, as antisocial chil-
dren become increasingly deficit in academic skills, they also
find themselves in classroom environments comprising chil-
dren with similar behavioral, social, and academic profiles
(Kellam, 1990). In these classroom settings, long-term friend-
ships may emerge that support problem behavior and discour-
age academic engagement, to the frustration of well-meaning
adults.
The link between poor peer relations and involvement with
antisocial peers deserves more discussion. In a review of the
literature on the prediction of future adjustment problems
from early peer relations, Parker and Asher (1987) summarized
their findings by stating that there are no data supporting the
idea of a causal model over an incidental model of the role of
peer rejection in social adjustment. The incidental model
claims that peer rejection is simply an outcome of the child's
2
All possible interactions among the entire set of independent vari-
ables were examined to determine if any interactions uniquely ac-
counted for variance in peer antisocial behavior at age 12. These inter-
actions were near zero and nonsignificant.
INVOLVEMENT WITH ANTISOCIAL PEERS 179
Table 6
Correlations Among Age 10 Constructs
Construct 1
1. Observed discipline
2. Parent monitoring
3. Peer antisocial behavior
(age 10)
4. Academic skills
5. Social preference
6. Antisocial behavior

.20**
-.33**
.33**
.34**
-.40**

-.34**
. 24"
.25*
- . 3 2 "

-.25**
-.25**
.59**

.33**
-.33** - . 46**
/><.00l.
adjustment status and that there is no independent outcome
associated with peer rejection. The present data isolated boys'
sociometric status as one potential factor that is associated with
involvement with antisocial peers at ages 10 and 12. Alternative
explanations, however, such as that involvement with antisocial
peers leads to increases in peer rejection, cannot be ruled out
with the present study. Identifying the unique causal role of a
variable from a passive longitudinal study is notoriously com-
plex (Cook & Campbell, 1979). At this time, intervention aimed
at improving the antecedent conditions identified in the pres-
ent study will provide more information about these causal
relations. The magnitude of the covariation between parenting
practices and school failure justifies more study of experimen-
tal intervention.
The results of this research may provide impetus for future
speculation and study of peer affiliation patterns in social and
affective adjustment during adolescence and beyond. To shed
light on the processes underlying peer affiliation patterns, ba-
sic learning principles may be useful. Two interrelated pro-
cesses may account for the mutual association of rejected chil-
dren with one another. The first is limited social reinforcement
in school settings for disliked children. The second is the likeli-
hood that other rejected children are more tolerant, even en-
couraging, of antisocial behavior patterns. Patterson et al. (in
press) have called this phenomenon "shopping." In a learning
theory framework, it has also been called "foraging" (Domjan
& Burkhard, 1986). The central idea is that children seek social
settings that provide the maximum level of social reinforce-
ment for the minimum social energy. Therefore, peer group
settings are selected that do not demand the use of behaviors
that are nonexistent or weak in a child's behavioral repertoire.
The processes that underlie the development of a deviant
peer group must be consonant with those involved in develop-
ing a friendship. Because they depend on an individual's pat-
tern of strengths and weaknesses, friendships that are most
successful are those that provide a good match of interests and
skills. Gottman (1983), using a microsocial level of analysis,
showed that establishing common-ground activity was the key
social event that accounted for children's becoming friends.
Matching of skill and interest is probably the best background
covariate of two individuals
1
successfully establishing a com-
mon-ground interaction activity. For the disliked and antisocial
child, this activity may be disrupting class, forming coalitions
against other children, or other forms of antisocial behavior. To
this extent, a different level of data is needed to disentangle
children's background profiles from their behavior to establish
which processes account for friendship formation among chil-
dren with different social profiles and the extent that future
social development is shaped by these processes. One approach
might be to follow the lead of Panella and Henggeler (1986) in
studying the nature of friendship dyads in normal and antiso-
cial children. Such research is currently under way on the boys
involved in the OYS longitudinal study, in which analyses will
focus on the content of boys' interactions at age 14 as well as the
processes underlying their interpersonal exchanges. In this way,
progress might be made in understanding the role of relation-
ships in initiating or maintaining developmental trajectories.
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Received October 25,1988
Revision received Xune 6,1990
Accepted June 25,1990